No sooner had the presence of the Turks at Otranto, in the extreme southeast of Italy, been rendered a thing of the past by the surrender of the Moslem garrison to the Duke of Calabria in September, 1481, than the peninsula was again ranged in opposing camps . . . .
Featuring Oliphant Smeaton from his book The Medici and the Italian Renaissance published in 1901.
Previously on Lorenzo de Medici and Florence’s Renaissance. Now we continue.
Time: 1449 – 1492
No sooner had the presence of the Turks at Otranto, in the extreme southeast of Italy, been rendered a thing of the past by the surrender of the Moslem garrison to the Duke of Calabria in September, 1481, than the peninsula was again ranged in opposing camps by the attempt of the Venetians, assisted by Sixtus and his nephew, to dispossess Ercole d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, of his dominions. The Duke had married the daughter of Ferdinand, King of Naples, an alliance which, by strengthening him, gave on that account great offence to the Venetians. They therefore sought to provoke him by insisting on their monopoly of the manufacture of salt in North Italy, and by building a fortress on a part of the Ferrarese territory which they pretended was within the limits of their own. When he remonstrated, they declined to remove it. In vain he appealed to Sixtus. The latter was one of the wolves waiting to devour him. He then turned to Lorenzo.
To the inexpressible chagrin of Venice and of Sixtus, the Magnifico promptly espoused his cause, formed an alliance with Ferdinand and other states, and, before the Pope and the Venetians were aware he had moved, they found themselves confronted by Naples, Florence, Milan, Bologna, Mantua, and Faenza. The allies were commanded by Federigo of Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, while the Venetian-papal troops were placed under Ruberto Malatesta of Rimini. In this campaign, however, Lorenzo was really the master-spirit. Although successes were won on both sides, a more than usually tragic complexion was given to the war by the death of the two commanders of the opposing forces. They had been friends from youth, and such a trifle as the fact that they were hired to fight against each other never disturbed the tenor of their mutual regard. Armstrong says no more than the truth when he remarks: “It was a pathetic coincidence. The two rival generals had bequeathed to each other the care of their children and estates, a characteristic illustration of the easy good-fellowship in this game of Italian war.”
The war dragged on with varying results until Lorenzo played his reserve card. He induced the Slavic Archbishop of Carniola, who, visiting Rome as the emperor Frederick’s envoy, had been shocked by the shameless immorality of the Pope’s life, to begin an agitation for a general council. In this he was supported by several of the rulers in Northern Italy and Eastern Europe. The move was so far successful. The Pope became alarmed, and hurriedly broke off his alliance with Venice, on the plea that the prevention of fresh schism in the Church must take precedence of every other consideration. The real fact of the matter was he dreaded the fate of Pope John XXIII, for he knew the actions of his nephew Girolamo Riario would not stand conciliar examination. Moreover, his other nephew, Giuliano della Rovere, afterward Pope Julius II, a bitter enemy to Girolamo, and Lorenzo’s warm friend, had, during the disgrace of his cousin, gained the Pope’s ear and told him some plain but wholesome truths regarding the unpleasant consequences of a permanent rupture with Lorenzo.
All these considerations induced Sixtus to yield and leave Venice to prosecute the war alone. This it did against a quadruple alliance, for the Pope, when the haughty republic of the lagoons refused to disgorge its Ferrarese prey at his orders, promptly changed sides, and was as keen against the aggressor as he had previously been favorable to it. The Venetians sustained two severe defeats, while their fleet was almost shattered by a storm. The pecuniary strain was beyond their resources longer to maintain. They therefore resorted to the customary project of inducing some other power to intervene. In this case they took the step of inviting the Duke of Orleans to lay claim to the dukedom of Milan, and the Duke of Lorraine to the throne of Naples. The move was successful as regards Ludovico of Milan; he withdrew from the alliance, and much against the wish of the other allies the peace of Bagnolo was concluded in August, 1484. To Sixtus the news came as the knell of his dearest hopes. He gave way to one wild outburst of passion, in which he cursed all who had been engaged in making peace, then apoplexy supervened, and within a few hours he was a corpse. He was succeeded by Cardinal Cybo, a warm friend toward the Medici, and one who had such a profound admiration for the genius of Lorenzo in statecraft that he seldom took any step without consulting him, though unfortunately he did not always follow the Magnifico’s advice.
If no one else reaped honor and glory from this Ferrarese war, Lorenzo undoubtedly did so. By both sides the fact was admitted that he had acted throughout as a far-seeing, sagacious diplomatist, who, while giving preeminence, as was natural, to the welfare of his own state, had sought to conserve the cause of letters, even amid the turmoil incident upon the collision of political interests. He had proved the friend even of the enemies of his own country, when once they had passed from the scene of conflict, as, for example, when he dared Girolamo Riario to raise a finger in the direction of dispossessing the son of the Pope’s general, Ruberto Malatesta, of his Rimini estates. He was the friend of the oppressed everywhere, and in more cases than one his powerful protection saved the children of his friends from being robbed by powerful relatives. This connection between Florence, Naples, Milan, Rome, and Ferrara tended to the promotion of intellectual intercourse between them. As printing was now being briskly prosecuted all over Northern and Central Italy, the interchange of literature went on ceaselessly among them.